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Thursday, January 15, 2015

13 Test Taking Tips and Strategies

In order to do well on the NCLEX exam you not only need to study content, but you need to think about test taking strategies. These strategies also helped me perform well on my other tests throughout nursing school. Taking tests in nursing school is frustrating because there can be, and often are, more than one correct choice. It's all about choosing the "most" correct choice.

It is frustrating indeed.

First I want to mention the Nursing Process. I'm not sure why, but my teachers never explained this to us until almost the end of the first semester of school. I think it somehow slipped through the cracks. Either way, when you are new to nursing you will struggle to answer questions correctly on tests if you do not know the nursing process.

Nursing Process

  1. Assessment- collect data on the patient.
  2. Nursing Diagnosis- analyze your assessment to determine a nursing diagnosis.
  3. Outcome Identification- identifies the expected outcome of the diagnosis.
  4. Planning- develops a plan of care and prescribes interventions.
  5. Implementation- implements the interventions developed in the planning stage.
  6. Evaluation- evaluates the clients attainment of outcomes.
Now that you know the nursing process (memorize it!) we can move on to my 13 tips for taking the NCLEX and other tests during nursing school.

Tips and Strategies

  1. Know the material. Yes. Study the content. That will get part of the way. Studying and passing NCLEX starts on day one of nursing school. There are no shortcuts, unfortunately.
  2. Don't ask why. I'm the worst for second guessing myself and it almost always bites me in the rear. Don't start asking yourself a bunch of "why" questions.
  3. Don't read into the question. These questions are direct and upfront. Like I said, don't second guess yourself. This is such a hard habit for me to break, but you must break it.
  4. Never leave the patient. In the NCLEX hospital you never leave the patient. Even though you know in the real world, I'd have to go find "X" or I need to get "Y". No. You're in a NCLEX hospital. The doctor always picks up the phone, you're never understaffed, etc. Don't leave the patient.
  5. Anticipate "Select all that apply" questions. And other higher level thinking questions, such as ranking in order. Yes, they are frustrating. Yes, they make me nervous. If we just accepted that they will show up, because they will, we can decrease our test taking anxiety. Know that if you are getting a lot of "Select all that apply" questions then you are doing really good on your test! It's a higher level of knowledge question, so if you are getting them then that means you are doing quite well on the test.
  6. Never "do nothing". You will need to act. If you are being asked a question, then you need to have an action. Do not "do nothing."
  7. If two answers are the opposite, then one is most likely the answer. This one hasn't been as hard for me to accept. It's probably the easiest tip.
  8. Never pass the buck. I'm not typically tempted by these answers. I usually find them amusing. I think this is a good rule to follow in life and in practice as well. In the NCLEX hospital, you never pass the buck because everyone performs their job perfectly without committing any errors.
  9. Do not persuade the patient. I think after you have an ethics class these answers become less tempting. We have to give the patient their right to autonomy. In an NCLEX world we do not persuade the patient. Ethically, in the real world we shouldn't either. In practice I never try to persuade someone, but I do try to educate them. Sometimes that's the missing component. Side note- sorry. That had nothing to do with the test.
  10. Avoid absolute words such as "always," "never," "all the time". These are also words that I underline. If you're reading fast your eyes can quickly skip over these words and phrases. Very rarely would an absolute word be in the correct option.
  11. Process of elimination. I use this strategy a lot for test taking. I try to cross out the answers I know for sure that are wrong. I may only narrow it down to two choices but that's a 50% chance verses a 25% chance.
  12. Pay attention to what is being asked. I always underline words that are important. When it says "Which of the following is not true...." I would underline the word "not". This way I am less likely to make a silly mistake. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is when you get a question wrong because you didn't pay attention. Slow down. Don't be in such a hurry. Other words to look out for, "what would you do first," "What is most important," etc... Just like how our word problems in math often had distractors, test questions in nursing school are full of distractions. PAY ATTENTION.
  13. Never say, "Don't worry." This was an answer that would tempt me a lot before I had my psych class and ethics class. It's just not therapeutic communication to tell a patient to "not worry". You especially don't do this in the NCLEX hospital. That type of communication will make the patient not feel validated in their feelings. A more appropriate response would be "What is it about your procedure that is making you worry?" Something along those lines where you acknowledge the patient's feelings and you are also searching for a solution. That will be more correct than "don't worry."

I really hope that these tips help you with your tests during nursing school as well as NCLEX. It took me a long time to really learn these strategies but once I did, my test scores shot straight up.

What are some of your test taking strategies and tips?? Leave a comment below or send me an email if you would like to see it added to the list.



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